Necromancer Class Guide
This guide was created by Moloch Vein of the Guild Wars Guru Forums. To see the original post click here.
=*= Introduction and Soul Reaping =*=
Lore-wise, the patron God of necromancers is Grenth, God of Death and Lord of the Underworld. It should come as no surprise that it is a class intimately connected to death. Necromancer skills are the only ones capable of exploiting a corpse for a purpose other than reviving it, and even their primary attribute is tied to the death of creatures. Ironically, there have even surfaced necromancer builds requiring you to kill yourself.
The necromancer excels at potent, long-lasting hexes in the Curses spell school. Death Magic allows a necromancer to fill the role of a "Minion Master" or "Minion Bomber", creating undead allies to fight for you, as well as some limited tools to inflict conditions and do direct damage. Blood Magic is mainly used for party-wide energy support and damage- or life-stealing buffs through the use of skills like Blood Ritual, Blood Is Power and different Orders spells.
Necromancers are traditionally defined as a "midline" class. This means they are the second line of battle, with melee fighters being the first and healers and other support characters being the last. Necromancers usually stand at casting range of the enemy. However, there are support roles that a necromancer can fill, which calls for a more retracted position, in the backline or even further back in some cases. The only job the necromancer is truly ill-suited for is true tanking and frontline functions. While it is possible to create a melee necromancer it will always be a gimmick build, and usually a very fragile one. This is because necromancers have few strong heals, few inherent skills to improve their defense, and none to improve their weak armor. No caster class makes a weaker frontline character than a necromancer.
This physical fragility is eminently compensated for by the positive aspects of the class. Necromancers are high-influence characters who can easily affect both multiple allies and multiple foes with a wide assortment of skills. It is a class superbly suited for general PvE play, where fighting large mobs is common. To further enhance their status, the necromancer skill lines include extremely potent skills, such as Spoil Victor, capable of destroying powerful single creatures almost single-handedly.
The primary attribute of a necromancer is Soul Reaping. At this time of writing, Soul Reaping returns 1 energy to you for every rank in Soul Reaping, everytime a non-Spirit creature dies. Energy return from Soul Reaping is limited to three hits every 15 seconds. The Soul Reaping line includes very little skills. Because of this, the attribute is often very undervalued by a newbie necromancer, who does not understand its power and routinely specs it absurdly low. It is a common misconception among new players that the class with the deepest energy pool is the Elementalist, with the capacity of having twice the amount of energy compared to any other character. The truth is that no caster will have more energy to spend over time in a PvE setting than the necromancer, thanks to the passive energy-gaining effect of its primary.
The long-lasting, mass-effect spells of the necromancer line combined with the primary attribute makes the necromancer the most resilient PvE spellcaster in the game. While a mesmer can potentially shut down a single target better, and while an elementalist can carry skills doing great damage on paper, no class is capable of producing as many debilitating effects to a group of monsters over an extended time, and no single character can hurt this group as badly as a necromancer.
This guide will take the form of background information combined with common questions and answers. It is geared with the newbie player in mind, but hopes to serve as a bridge to allow these people to improve to higher levels of play. It will include many builds and comparisons between these builds.
=*= I just created a Necromancer. What secondary should I pick? =*=
By far the most common secondaries for N are Mo and Me. Use Me if you are interested in hexes primarily. Use Mo if survival and/or minions are more attractive. Use /D if you want to run a /D Minion Master build - however, please note that you can not run a good N/D Minion Master build with no Mystic Regeneration, and that spell is only available at the end of Nightfall. Since you really won't use many other Dervish skills on an MM bar than Mystic Regeneration, it would probably be better to go with the Monk secondary for most new players, because that gives you a decent assortment of useful skills as you play through the game. After you have Ascended, you will be able to change your secondary to any you want. Then, you might want to consider, for example, /Rt if you want to be able to fulfill the role of party healer.
=*= I am only level <a>. I do not have skill <b> and <c>. I only own campaign <d>. Please give me a build =*=
First you need to understand what restriction this puts on people trying to help you. It is hard for us to know exactly which skills you have, what armor you're using, what monetary resources, and which skills you are able to buy at your point in the game. So, this is going to be generic advice only. It will also hold true for all classes.
The builds presented below are all level-20 builds, and they incorporate the skills most beneficial to them, including the elite skills. What you could try to do would be to find a close match to any skill you are missing. For example, if you're instructed to use Spiteful Spirit, it could be replaced with Mark of Pain or Insidious Parasite.
The second thing to understand is that you are limited. You don't have a fully-fledged character yet, and your skill usage must reflect this. You shouldn't mindlessly spec into six different attributes. Concentrate. Concentrate on the one role you wish to perform. Use only your primary attribute and one other attribute. Only include a third attribute if you really, really, really have to. One example for this "needed" third attribute would be anything helping you heal as a minion master.
A minion master build can be easily run with no elite. The same thing is true for a curses build, but it will be considerably less effective. A blood build with no elite will be nearly completely useless in general PvE. I would wholeheartedly recommend a MM build for a newbie player, consisting simply of one healing spell, two minion spells and Blood of the Master. It will get you through the game... easily.
=*= Special notes =*=
I have updated this sticky to the new bbcode format. In the process of doing this I have decided to ignore any lack of PvE skills at reasonable levels for the PvE builds.
Some of the sections are outdated. For example, Order of Undeath got trashed for PvE purposes and can no longer be used. I have decided to keep these sections for a little longer because I hope this change will not stand, though I am not holding out hopes.
=*= Minions and Death =*=
While there are exceptions, most Death Magic builds revolve around minions. This is because it is the unique characteristic of the spell line, and because other skill lines are usually better at performing its other functions, like direct damage, limited hex capacity and the spreading of conditions (with the notable exception of Disease, which can only be inflicted by Death Magic skills.)
=*= A few notes about Minion Mastery versus Minion Bombing =*=
A Minion Master and a Minion Bomber serves different purposes. The job of a Minion Master is to raise and maintain an army of minions. This army is used for dealing direct physical damage and attracting enemy attention, aka "tanking". A Minion Master is an extremely strong addition to the team at low and medium-level PvE. Their value decreases as enemies become too high level to actually be threatened by a level 18 Bone Fiend. The only way to prolong their effectivity in higher end PvE is by using Order of Undeath, or to a lesser extent to function as minion wall maintainer via Aura of the Lich in some areas - Tombs of the Primeval Kings and Urgoz' Warren comes to mind.
A Minion Bomber, on the other hand, focuses on creating short lived minions which are blown up via the use of [Death Nova] Death Nova and either [Taste of Death] Taste of Death, [Putrid Flesh] Putrid Flesh or [Feast for the Dead] Feast for the Dead to deal direct armor ignoring damage to the enemy and spread conditions. Because of this, the level and durability of the minions of a MB is not important, which is why Animate Bone Minions is usually (and preferrably) the only minion spell used by the MB. The only meaningful Death Magic elite for a PvE Minion Bomber is Jagged Bones.
Because the inclusion of a Minion Bomber drastically increases the occurences of deaths while in combat, the second use of this character lies in creating the energy machine that the other necromancers on the team benefit from passively. Team configurations using many Necromancers greatly benefit from the inclusion of a Minion Bomber, more so than by the inclusion of a Minion Master. A Minion Bomber can be used as an engine for a N heavy group to great effect to complete almost all high-level PvE areas. The job of a Minion Bomber has since the release of Nightfall traditionally been delegated to a hero. This is because micromanaging the health of all minions is a very frustrating experience for a human Necromancer, who hasn't even got any shortkey to target minions (this feature has been requested and has thus far fallen on deaf ears for over two years.)
=*= Please give me a PvE Minion Master build =*=
This is a common PvE Minion Master build for a newbie:
Baseline Minion Master
[Animate Flesh Golem][Animate Bone Fiend][Animate Bone Horror][Heal Area][Blood Of The Master]
Three optional skills. Suitable extra skills are Dark Bond, [Masochism] Masochism, [Rebirth] [Resurrection Chant] Rebirth/Resurrection Chant, [Well Of Suffering] Well of Suffering, [Rotting Flesh] Rotting Flesh, [Well of the Profane] Well of the Profane or even [Deathly Swarm] Deathly Swarm (however please note that Deathly Swarm should definitely not be used in high- or even middle-level PvE due to its armor-dependant nature.)
Baseline N/D Minion Master
[Animate Flesh Golem][Animate Bone Fiend][Animate Bone Horror][Blood Of The Master][Dark Bond][Mystic Regeneration]
Two optional skills. At least one of these should be an enchantment; Masochism is ideal for PvE, Infuse Condition is also fine. Elite can be switched to [Aura of the Lich] Aura of the Lich or [Order of Undeath] Order of Undeath for more advanced players. [Signet of Lost Souls] Signet of Lost Souls is a fine choice for Order of Undeath, and Masochism is strongly recommended for people running Order of Undeath. OoU builds should also look at [Animate Vampiric Horror] Animate Vampiric Horror, but beware of thinking those minions can be your only source of self-heal during combat - the hit point bonus from their use isn't reliable, so they can't.
For these builds I recommend Minion Master's insignia on chest and legs; one other insignia must be Bloodstained, rest can be Radiant and attunements. A max HP in the low 400s is fine for the saccing purposes. The N/D build should use a staff with +20% enchantments or (ideally) a caster weapon with +5 energy and +20% enchantments, combined with an offhand featuring a perfect Master of My Domain inscription (Death Magic+1/20%) and possibly a +30hp focus core or a focus core of Aptitude. While you do not want a high max HP on a saccing MM the +30hp will make it possible to take an extra grade of rune for Soul Reaping without getting too fragile.
=== A comparison between the different Death Magic elites to use for the Minion Master templates ===
Many people have noted a disbelief about me recommending the use of Flesh Golem above, since it is a deeply rooted conception on this forum that Flesh Golem is a "terrible elite". While it is true that it is rarely the strongest elite skill to run for an MM in any area, it is by far the easiest one. You cannot go wrong with a Golem. It will be there, big, slow and dumb, providing a good anchor for Dark Bond, doing some damage and... well... be big.
Aura of the Lich halves your maximum health and halves the sacrifice costs, percentage-wise, on top of that. This makes a minion army ridiculously easy to maintain, since you can use Blood of the Master more or less on-recharge and counteract the health loss with pip-based health regeneration. In other words, if you're interested in raising 10 minions and keep 10 minions at all times, you should definitely use Aura of the Lich. However, it is important to note the downside of AoTL, which is a very, very low maximum health. While you won't take full damage and degeneration rarely is a problem using a Mystic Regeneration-build, you can be easily spiked to death by life stealing skills from monsters. This makes knowing the area you're about to get into paramount.
Order of Undeath is the ultimate damage skill for a traditional Minion Master. It will raise the damage output from your minions by a considerable degree - much more, percentage-wise, in higher level areas, where the monsters will not take very much damage from low level minions, but the armor ignoring damage from OoU will get through to full effect.
The downside of this elite is that it is downright scary for a newbie to use. It is incredibly energy-intense, requiring you to put in 2 energy/second to maintain (less with Masochism), and comes with a heavy investment in sacrificing costs, requiring yet more energy spent on healing. This, in my opinion, immediately disqualifies it for inclusion in a newbie bar. It is important to note that maintaining the Order isn't enough. You must actually make sure to run Blood of the Master while the order is in effect oftentimes, and this is where new minion masters almost invariably fail, leading to the destruction of their army. However, it is my definite opinion that the best conceivable PvE minion master is one good enough to run Order of Undeath with a reasonable minion differential, as much Order coverage as possible and a full army.
Other Death Magic elites are weak for an MM in a PvE setting. [Tainted Flesh] Tainted Flesh, once run with some regularity by human MMs during Prophecies, simply provides immunity against a condition not all that prevalent in PvE, while inflicting it on the enemy. Since you will usually be fighting non-human foes, it's a stronger play to simply bring Rotting Flesh in almost all cases. Even then, it should be noted that health degeneration rarely is that effective in PvE. The usage of Jagged Bones and why this spell is incompatible with traditional MM behavior has been discussed - you do not want a skill as a MM that will simply weaken your wall. Other options, like [Toxic Chill] Toxic Chill, [Icy Veins] Icy Veins and the likes, can summarily be dismissed as trash.
["Go For The Eyes!"] "Go For The Eyes!" is a nice spell bringing with a minion master that will raise the damage by a few notches, since it affects all allies and does not require using an attack skill (of which minions have none.) A few PvE-only skills are noteworthy for its huge boosts to MM armies, namely [Ebon Battle Standard Of Honor] Ebon Battle Standard Of Honor and [Ursan Blessing] Ursan Roar. Both these skills will stack to raise minion damage output by armor ignoring boosts. Combining this with Order of Undeath (+15+15+16) can ensure all your minions strike for at least 46 damage per hit at max title levels. It is also important to note that [Barbs] Barbs and [Mark of Pain] Mark of Pain does not mind who is attacking a given target either, and all minions do physical damage.
=== Please give me a PvE Hero Minion Bomber build ===
This is a good tested PvE Hero Minion Bomber build:
[Jagged Bones][Infuse Condition][Dark Bond][Death Nova][Animate Bone Minions][Feast for the Dead][Foul Feast][Signet of Lost Souls]
The secondary is changeable to, for example, Rt, P, Me, depending on what you want from your hero. The elite isn't crucial. The only two truly indispensable skills are Animate Bone Minions and Death Nova. Other skills to consider are Putrid Flesh, Taste of Death and [Martyr] Martyr. Taste of Death means you can forget Dark Bond and maybe Feast for the Dead. This is only a baseline build performing three simple functions, producing minion decoys, doing damage with these and clearing conditions.
=*= Hexes and Hexing =*=
Curses are the second most well-known aspect of the necromancer. A typical Curses skill is a spell adversely affecting one or more foes, not by damage, but by a malus over time. This time is usually considerably longer than what is the case for any other class' hexes. A mesmer typically focuses on short-term hexes and spells producing a strong negative effect, be it an interrupt, disabling a skill or inducing a devastating condition like Blindness to one single foe. Necromancers typically make use of blanket hexes slowly breaking down the enemy.
By far the most popular and sought PvE hexer in the game is the Spiteful Spirit (or "SS") necromancer. This, simply and generally speaking, is because there is no stronger PvE hex in the game. The elite spell Spiteful Spirit deals armor-ignoring damage to target and adjacent foes whenever it attacks or uses a skill. While in effect, the hex will either simply produce great pressure to an enemy mob or kill it outright. Combined with other skills in the same spell line focused on further disabling large groups of enemies, through miss chances, Weakness and more, you have the base for an extremely strong skill bar.
It is also possible to create a viable PvE hex build through heavy investment in Blood Magic. These builds almost invariably run Spoil Victor as the elite skill. They suffer from the fact that Blood Magic is not a very versatile line when it comes to hexes, but this is somewhat compensated by Spoil Victor being so strong. SV builds can run with skills from secondaries, hybrid speccing into Curses and more. They can also take the form of bars concentrating both on party augmentation and offensive hexing.
=*= Please give me a PvE SS Curser build =*=
This is a common PvE SS build suitable for a newbie:
Baseline N/Me Spiteful Spirit Necromancer
[Arcane Echo][Spiteful Spirit][Insidious Parasite][Reckless Haste][Enfeebling Blood][Signet of Lost Souls]
Two optional skills. Several PvE-only skills are strong for this build. Options include Necrosis, Pain Inverter and others. Sometimes you'll bring Spinal Shivers for a one-skill interrupt-all shutdown. If you simply need one cheap manual interrupt you should bring Power Return from the Mesmer Fast Casting line - it's the cheapest and fastest recharging non-elite interrupt spell in the game, and its malus is completely harmless in normal PvE play. For Nightfall areas skills like Vocal Minority or Ulcerous Lungs (VM preferred but -8 health degeneration on one skill isn't too shabby even in PvE) become strong against paragon crowds.
Beware of spreading your attribute points. Every point you sacrifice out of Soul Reaping makes you more of a mesmer and less of a necromancer, and in PvE, that's not a good thing. One common newbie mistake is speccing Domination at something like 9 and bringing Empathy instead of, for example, Arcane Echo. It's a very weak play if you consider the spell's effect at such a limited strength, even after Empathy's buff.
I've includes Reckless Haste in the "core" build for this role. Reason for this is that a PvE necromancer build that's supposed to be able to fight a modicum of hex removal capability from monsters would do well with including an AoE hex spell. Options here are Suffering or Reckless Haste. Shadow of Fear and Meekness are counter-productive. Suffering is a spell lacking any effect in PvE except that of a cover/fish-hex. Reckless Haste, while heavily nerfed with respect to duration and cost, still does something very useful.
Insidious Parasite is a crutch-skill and is not necessary after you've mastered your role, generally speaking. It can still be strong. Parasitic Bond can be used as a cheap cover hex. Arcane Echo isn't really necessary. The key skills of the build are simply Spiteful Spirit and Enfeebling Blood.
If you are running with many physical henchmen, friends or heroes, bring Barbs and/or Mark of Pain for extra damage.
=*= Please give me a PvE SV build and tell me how to play it =*=
The mode of operation of a PvE SV necromancer is to stick SV on a target, wait for it to go below the health where the hex stops triggering, and finish it off with spike skills, alternately simply leave the finishing to the team mates. Thus, if you manage to hex and cover your target, you should let it be. It'll kill itself.
Bone minions (or minions in general) make a great addition to a team where a SV is present and vice versa, for obvious reason.
Baseline N/Me Spoil Victor Necromancer
[Arcane Echo][Spoil Victor][Life Siphon]
Five optional skills. Now, before we continue. The reason this starter build is so poorly fleshed out (to be honest even Life Siphon isn't all that wonderful, and Arcane Echo is also changeable) is that first of all, there's a fair bit of creative thinking involved in constructing a working hex build with a high spec in the Blood Magic line. It's a line with little utility for that purpose. Second, the final build depends on if you are running with mainly casters or with mainly melee friends.
Skills to consider from the Blood Magic line would be:
Order of Pain, Dark Fury, Mark of Fury, Strip Enchantment, Blood Ritual, Well of Blood.
A skill like Mark of Subversion sadly isn't much of an option due to a huge recharge and limited PvE utility.
If we are running with physicals, your damage addition and utility to the team will most often be highest through extensive use of Order spells. You enter an offensive hexing role mostly against powerful boss monsters and healers. the final result might be something like this:
N/Rt Physical SV Support
[Spoil Victor][Pain Inverter][Blood Renewal][Order Of Pain][Dark Fury][Blood Ritual][Well Of Blood][Flesh Of My Flesh]
Now, if we run with mostly casters and thus desire a build performing an offensive hexing function throughout:
N/E Offensive SV Hexer
[Glyph Of Swiftness][Spoil Victor][Pain Inverter][Glyph of Lesser Energy][Deep Freeze][Maelstrom][Well of Blood][Blood Ritual]
As you see, the final builds differ quite a lot.
=*= A little something about PvP and hexes =*=
The necromancer isn't a very strong class in high-end PvP anymore. This is because some possibilities permitting the necromancer to make effective use of his primary attribute in PvP have been removed and many necromancer skills have been weakened for a PvP purpose. This isn't the place to go into those changes and their impact on the meta-game, and more than that, I am not exactly qualified to write about it. However, necromancers are still very viable in low- to midrange PvP. Generally speaking, the more deaths in an area, the stronger the necromancer. This is also true for PvP. Above all else, necromancers make great characters for Alliance Battles, which border on PvE in their playing style, with an abundance of NPCs and weak opponents.
The most common builds for an AB necromancer are SS and MM builds. This isn't to say they're the best, just the most common, and among the easiest to grasp. For an MM build, variations of the N/D Mystic Regeneration builds have become popular. When it comes to hexes, I have written a little below.
=*= Please give me a good PvP Blood build for Alliance Battles and Random Arenas =*=
Beginner SV PvP Necromancer
[Hexer's Vigor][Spoil Victor][Life Siphon][Vampiric Gaze][Vampiric Swarm][Strip Enchantment][Signet of Lost Souls]
One optional skill. Optional include a Resurrection skill for RA (Resurrection Signet or possibly Death Pact Signet), Well of Blood for AB (this one is a no-brainer for AB), a speed boost like Dash, Gaze of Contempt, Jaundiced Gaze, and maybe some sort of interrupt or snare. Vampiric Swarm isn't too good in RA but works fine versus poor AB mobs.
Elite can be replaced by Soul Leech or Life Transfer. Life Tranfer is a very weak elite with an atrocious recharge, but new players like it, and it adds marginally to their survival without them having to really think about who they are casting on. If using Life Transfer at least consider bringing Glyph of Swiftness or Arcane Echo. Soul Leech will add massively to your survival if used correctly, and Spoil Victor is perhaps the deadliest hex spell in the game. This is a resilient build that works fairly well.
=== Please give me a good SS build to use in Alliance Battles ===
A decent SS build will prove pretty effective in Alliance Battles on several maps. It takes advantage of NPCs and human players mobbing, and can provide some nice pressure. There are other builds better suited to take down a single target, but many people frequently run SS builds in AB with good effect.
This is an example:
Beginner N/E SS PvP Necromancer
[Storm Djinn's Haste][Hexer's Vigor][Glyph of Swiftness][Spiteful Spirit][Insidious Parasite][Price of Failure][Defile Defenses][Signet of Lost Souls]
Usage is straight-forward; Spiteful on any, Insidious and Price on physical, Defile Defenses on rangers, assassins and maybe monks. Especially make sure to cast Price under Swiftness. A simple enchantment and a speed boost add to the survivability of the build. Optional replacement skills are the Curses wells for corpse denial/corpse utilization (Well of Weariness is especially good for the former), Suffering for an AoE hex, Desecrate or Defile Enchantments for assisting in shrine capping, and many others - use your common sense.
For all PvP builds demonstrated please consider your max HP. If you're running with a superior rune or even a major rune (not really recommended), invest heavily in vitae, survivor, etc. A max energy around 50 is perfectly fine.
=*= Necromancer support functions =*=
This will discuss the role of the backline necromancer. A backline N works as either an energy machine, an augmenter of damage or a straight healer.
The PvE necromancer healer might be described as a "gimmick function", since it does not use necromancer skills to perform its job. That doesn't mean it can't be very effective. More than that, it is a definite advantage that a class is able to heal. Often, you might be trying to complete a task with heroes or heroes and henchmen, and there is a world of difference between a human healer and an AI healer. In some cases, being able to switch to a healing function might be what separates you from failure.
An energy or damage-buff N usually works with massive health sacrificing. This makes the character extremely fragile. Thus a person running one of these builds must make sure to get in as little touch with the enemy as humanly possible. Pun intended, because you would do well not to run these builds on a hero without extensive micromanagement.
=*= How do I heal using a Necromancer primary, when the Necromancer primary includes almost no healing spells? =*=
An N healer uses almost exclusively spells from the Ritualist or Monk spell lines, combined with a high spec into Soul Reaping. Basically the build takes advantage of the seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy from Soul Reaping in normal PvE where stuff dies like there is no tomorrow, to channel it into party healing.
This is an example of a N/Rt healer:
[Weapon of Remedy][Weapon of Warding][Mend Body And Soul][Spirit Light][Spirit Transfer][Life][Protective Was Kaolai][Flesh Of My Flesh]
=*= A couple of notes regarding Necromancer healers =*=
Necromancer healers in PvE, as stated above, bank on Soul Reaping to provide them with better energy management than any other healer primary. If this isn't the case (lack of deaths etc.) you should obviously not run it. A N healer will have to work overtime to compensate for (and supersede) the benefits from Divine Favor and (much less so) the rune benefits from main Rt healers. Thus the main question for an N healer shouldn't be "how much healing per energy" as much as "how much healing per second." This makes, for example, Glimmer of Light a better choice for an N/Mo than for a Mo/x.
=*= What is a BiP Necromancer and how do I create and run one? =*=
A BiP Necromancer (now referred to as simply a BiP) functions as an energy engine for the team. His main function is to cast Blood is Power on all casters on the team to give them a taste of the insane energy regeneration capabilities in PvE that Necromancers take for granted. A competent BiP will be able to ensure that every caster in the group can spam more or less all his spells on recharge without having to worry about energy, provided that they do not run terrible builds.
A BiP is the ultimate backline of the party and should do his best to stay further away from the enemy than even the monks. Only the Orders necromancer can get away with a more retracted standard position in the party.
Continuously casting BiP on party members involves a ton of sacrificing health. This means the BiP needs a method to counteract these sacrifices. The most common "general" solution is reducing your max health from use of superior runes to a more manageable level, where pip-based regeneration can take care of your health. This way you run on 55-200hp depending on the situation. Other BiP characters run on 1 hit point. This involves equipping a "55 set" and suiciding one or more (preferrably down to 60dp) times. When you only have 1 hit point you do not take damage from any sacrificing skill.
Example of a generic BiP build follows;
[Blood Is Power][Blood Renewal]
Six optional skills.
No, I'm not kidding. It should also be noted that Blood Magic does not have to be 12. 10 will do fine (totalling 14). 9 (totalling 13) will also do fine if you do not use Well of Blood. You also might not need Blood Renewal. The extra skills provided depend solely on the area and the specific support role you might be asked to fulfill in addition to your blood spam.
One thing - Blood Ritual is a terrible spell for a BiP and almost never worth a slot. It requires you to get in touch range, gives less energy regeneration, and has a longer casting time.
There are tons of PvE-only skills that would synergize very well with a BiP build. Options include the Battle Standards and many others, check for yourselves.
Some specific, fleshed-out BiP builds follow:
[Masochism][Blood Renewal][Blood Is Power][Order Of Pain][Dark Fury][Never Surrender][Fall Back][Signet Of Return]
This is a BiP/Orders hybrid build derivated from one that was much in use in The Deep (and still is for those who run the Steel Wall build.) Unlike those builds for that team, this one works with an active front line. It's designed to be run on a moderately low health bar, around maybe 200 hit points. Two different non-conflicting Orders are maintained in battle, along with BiP on the casters. Health and energy is maintained both through the N enchantments and through the Command shouts. The Command shouts are chosen to not be those that Paragons generally bring too often in battle, and to be somewhat selfish. Those shouts are eminently replacable, however, unless you want to build some adrenaline, don't use a shout like Go For The Eyes, even though it would be attractive with the high specced Command.
DoA BiP Spirit Support
[Masochism][Blood Is Power][Symbiosis][Edge Of Extinction][Brambles]
Three optional skills. This is a simple variant of the Domain of Anguish builds that were used to farm the Stygian Veil, Tank'n'Spank style, quite regularily up until a while ago. It illustrates how bizarre the build can get. This is run with 1 hit point. Spirits are kept up at all times, BiP is spammed with no interrupt.
=*= What is an Orders necromancer, how do I run one and what is its build? =*=
A dedicated Orders necromancer is usually one running Order of the Vampire. His function is to keep up this partywide enchantment at all (or close to all) times in order to buff the damage of and heal the physicals on the team. The most "traditional" example of an Orders necromancer is the one in Tombs of the Primeval Kings running as a part of a Barrage/Pet team to group-farm this area.
An Orders necromancer has an easy job. He avoids enemy contact altogether. His main function can be accomplished as long as he is within radar range of the party. Since he is sacrificing health a lot, staying out of touch of the enemy isn't a bad thing. However for some additional functions he does need to be in casting range of the party (of course not in casting range of the enemy.) Basically speaking, running an Order is like running a very simple BiP.
A while ago much was said about "constant Orders coverage", meaning you should bring both Order of Pain and Order of the Vampire. This is silly. You're better off to keep Order of the Vampire up and running as much as possible, since the two Orders conflict.
A traditional example build, suitable for running in Tombs with no change, follows;
N/Mo Tombs OotV Support
[Masochism][Blood Renewal][Order of the Vampire][Protective Spirit][Aegis][Shield of Absorption][Blood Ritual][Rebirth]
As is the case for the BiP health should be run low, anything around 55-200hp is suitable depending on the area (and in this case on the level of the Tomb.)
Several PvE-only skills would be strong to include in this build, as the Battle Standards, Great Dwarf Armor, Great Dwarf Weapon, Mindbender and more.
=*= Miscellaneous =*=
Here I have put those tiny bits of information that didn't find a place in the beforehand categories. Things might be added here sporadically, not that it won't be added in the other compartments. Simple fringe questions that will be asked in this forum might be answered here.
=*= How do I beat the Bison tournament with a Necromancer? =*=
You should do what every other caster does and go /Rt. Use this build which works with every caster primary (and, as a matter of fact, with any primary):
Raise all spirits at the doorstep, use Painful Bond and watch target die. Read the description of the spirits so you know what each do.
If you feel this is beneath you, you shouldn't ask the question in the necromancer forum but rather make your own build to own everything, so you can feel elite. One hint would be Spoil Victor combined with a 55 farming build. There are other options as well. Figure it out for yourself.
One side note is that you can use this general build to beat the Glacial Griffon in the quest "Cold As Ice". You will just need to include Summon Spirits and Gaze of Fury.
=*= How do I make a "55" Necromancer for farming? =*=
You need an armor with all superior runes. You should get a cheap armor for this, because armor level does not matter. Which exact runes you use isn't very important, though with the prices of runes being so low at the moment, going with one of each isn't bad. The insignia should be Radiant for all armor pieces.
You need one -50hp Grim Cesta, obtained as a reward for completing the quest Cities of Ascalon from Symon the Scribe in Ascalon City (post-Searing.) You should also preferrably have one "caster weapon" - this is a martial weapon with +5 energy and +20 enchantment duration. The "Totem Axe" is the most common item used.
Example build follows:
Baseline SS Farmer
[Protective Spirit][Healing Breeze][Spiteful Spirit][Mending][Essence Bond][Balthazar's Spirit]
(Note: Blood Magic must be 5 in order to gain the energy bonus from the offhand.)
Two optional skills. This is only the bare essentials of N farming; I can not cover it in detail in this thread. Elite can be changed to Spoil Victor. Please use the search function to find more information.
=*= What are "Sab's Hero Builds" and what is the meaning of "Synergy"? =*=
What is commonly referred to as "Sab's builds" are three Necromancer general purpose hero builds presented by the user Sab on this forum. They work on the simple principle outlined before, with a Soul Reaping powered caster team featuring a Minion Bomber as the energy machine.
The meaning of "synergy", quite literally, is the sum being greater than its parts. In this sense necromancers maintain excellent synergy with each other, since all necromancers both drive their energy on deaths and have the power to create artificial deaths. The only other class maintaining synergy with itself to anywhere near this degree are Paragons.
What this means, generally speaking, is that the more necromancers there are on a team, the more you will want to add another one. While, for example, an E/x running a warder build will be stronger than an N/E if seen as a single unit, this might not be true on a party with a minion bomber and perhaps several other necromancers present. While a Mo/x will be able to heal better, this might not be true either in these cases.
Necromancers synergize well with physicals. This is because there are several strong support tools in the N line to augment physical damage and utility. While they can obviously team with any class, they will not match so well with, for example, an elementalist. The dream match for the necromancer is the paragon. This is true for many reasons, two of which being that the paragon can benefit from the N physical buffs, while the necromancer - and even his minions, sometimes - can benefit from the paragon defensive and augmenting chant webs in return.
Understanding the synergies between classes and skills is essential for proper play. It is doubly essential for necromancers, since the class has so good synergy options.
=*= Give me an example of a synergizing team build =*=
A team build using exclusively necromancers is normally an example of what I prefer to call "Synergy Level 1". Its only synergy is the creation of minions, which all the necromancers on the team use as an energy machine.
A simple example of a more advanced synergy follows:
Death Necromancer - death=12 [Animate Bone Fiend]
Curses Necromancer - curses=12 [Barbs] and [Mark Of Pain]
Command Paragon - command=12 and [Go for the Eyes]
Here we have examples of several levels of synergy.
The minion master on the team provides minions. These provide the two necromancers on the team with energy. They also provide the paragon with energy through Leadership affecting the minions.
The hexer curses the foes. He augments the damage of the minions, as well as the damage of the paragon.
The paragon augments the damage of the minions via "Go For The Eyes!".
=*= What is a good necromancer build to use in conjunction with physical players, heroes and henchmen? =*=
Mark of Pain Nuker
[Barbs][Mark of Pain][Rigor Mortis][Assassin's Promise]
Four optional skills. The key is calling targets for focused fire. The Assassin elite will recharge the long-recharge hexes. Almost any Curses skill is a good match for this bar - especially those who aren't commonly used in PvE due to their hefty recharge. Commonly used options are Meekness, Shadow Of Fear, Ebon Vanguard Assassin Support, "Finish Him!", Enfeebling Blood, Technobabble (this one is especially great versus healers), Well of Darkness... you name it.